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Why India’s Bus Rapid Transit Projects don’t excite me

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Public Transport
The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as it is currently planned in India is suggested as the one-size-fit-all solution to our transport woes. Having travelled on Mumbai’s bus service (BEST) for thirty years & London’s public transport since 2001, I can’t share the optimism of those who believe BRT (as it is currently planned) is the way forward. When senior citizens, children & disabled struggle to cross the roads safely, one would hope for a solution that improves all aspects of mobility. I wonder why a city like Pune would spend crores of rupees on BRT when 40% of its roads don’t have pavements (see state of Pune pavements here). That almost a third of Pune citizens commute by walking makes the question more poignant.


I have for some time now tried to find an answer to the question. My quest has led me to assess available information on the BRT projects implemented in India’s two cities. My understanding has grown but as have the questions. Our BRT planners unfortunately have overlooked many issues.


1. One of the many issues I have had with prioritising BRT first in Pune has been due to the lack of respect for the difference between the demographics of Pune and Bogotá. 80% people did not have personal vehicles and 80% travel to their Central Business District. Unlike this, in Pune almost every house hold has a vehicle (when every household is considered to be a 4 member family as per available stats). BRT was successful in Bogotá because of decades of planning (unlike 2-3 years in India). Land use policies ensured growth along BRT routes. In Pune it’s above average for India per capita income generating population travels in all parts of the city.


This video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=71UhKAtGSik&feature=related shows the Bogotá before BRT - note the number of buses vs. the private vehicles during pre-Bogotá times - all run by mafia - but the fact is that people were on buses already, the challenge of switching them / winning them over was never a part of the dynamic. The iconic images of Bogotá are also very popular, this video shows just how wide these BRT roads were (are) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_7N2ajOYYw&feature=related and hence begs a question how many of our roads can accommodate this design. Equally the elevated crossways and median bus stations (at least = 1.5 lanes) are no where near junctions. Amazingly he talks of missing side walks acting up as parking lots - very similar to Pune as we all know. Bogotá’s success is more due to social reconstruction and not so much the buses (which were in use anyway albeit in a disorganized way). The fact that they neglected roads but invested in creating Latin America’s longest pedestrian walkway and bicycle track says a lot about the difference in the vision Bogotá administration has compared with that of Pune or Delhi.


2. For a BRT to succeed there are pre-requisites, both Pune & Delhi fail in this regard. I make an example of Pune to elucidate this -
  • Historically, Pune’s bus service has been badly managed. Run down buses, lack of rationalised routes, poor frequencies, absence of a long term vision and business model has led to Pune citizens resort to use of private vehicles.
  • Pune does not have facilities to park / maintain new buses and pre-paid ticketing system is a distant dream.
  • For more details on how poor the Pune Municipal Transport’s basic facilities are, please read my detailed review ‘Pune Caught in a Whirlpool – can a modern public transport system rescue it
3. To make matters worse, the BRT plans and implementation has been sloppy, failing to take in to account numerous factors. In Delhi and Pune median segregated bus lanes were considered. A number of arguments are made in favour of this system, but there is little if any mention of counter-arguments or alternative models. I present their arguments of Delhi IIT (in italics and red) in favour of median dedicated lanes and my counter arguments below each
* The high volume of turning traffic interferes with the through movement of bus traffic if the bus uses the same curb-side lane as the turning vehicles.

Unfortunately they don't acknowledge that a kerb side bus lane can be implemented on many more roads (and hence offer better overall mobility) and is much cheaper. The London model shows that bus lanes can be used on any 2 lane road. Peripheral bus lanes can be non-segregated allowing use by other vehicles during non-peak times, making optimal use of road space. Interruptions & conflicts with off-lanes can be minimised in many ways – introducing red routes (no stopping) and altering entry/exit points on parallel off-lanes. Please see documents listed in appendix below in connection with use of peripheral non-segregated lane. There are clear advantages as well in using the positives of London's bus lane model –
  • Cheaper and quicker to implement
  • Can be used more widely (on any 2 lane road) - across the city, we can end up with much better overall mobility. We all know many roads with 3 lanes (I know at least a dozen in Mumbai and Pune) which would never be considered for BRT due to lack of width to expand (but are ideal for London style bus priority).
  • Non-segregation offers fair and optimal use of road space. London bus lanes operate largely during peak time, are available for others during non-peak times and indeed for parking beyond parking restriction times. In many ways the strengths of current infrastructure is used as against damaging ecology by making efforts to widen roads by culling trees.
  • In the event of a failure of the scheme, nothing is lost – in contrast, if median segregated bus lanes fail; it will not be easy to reverse the damage (there will be huge costs). Thus I would argue, if you have to pilot, why not pilot the more cost-effective option.
People argue that non-segregated bus lanes are likely to be abused by two wheelers / 3 wheelers etc. The truth is that as we have seen, even the segregated lanes in middle of the road are being abused. This design has not made them immune from abuse as can be evidently seen from the massive number of police deployed to man these lanes. The problem thus is to do with the way we drive. In fact a quick look at Google earth images will show that our junctions are perpetually clogged and chaotic, the road between junctions is almost empty!! To solve problems of congestion where the root of the problem lies deeply connected with driver behaviour, one would think the solution is better driver training, good road signage, synchronised signals, etc. Trying to solve the above problem with BRT is like treating malaria with anti-cancer drugs. It simply will not work.

As an author of a series of driver education videos, I can demonstrate amply how a respecting a zebra crossing automatically stems and regulates flow of vehicles by spacing them out evenly. It does not take hard to imagine the cost differential between painting the zebra’s correctly vs. implementing BRT, having said, it’s the former that will work far better than the latter in improving overall flow of traffic in the city.

* Buses using the kerb-side lane are forced to stop at every red signal with other vehicles reducing throughput, therefore central bus lanes are preferred.

If they had seen the Bus Priority Resource pack developed by DOT, UK they would have found an answer to this. UK has implemented the concept of pre-signals / smart signals which offer priority to buses and this could very easily be considered in India. I have created a summary document of the 250 page resource pack, click here for same.

* Unless we have central lanes, at least 50% pedestrians will need to cross a total of 12 lanes to get to the bus stop on the other side of the road.

A simple solution for this is using a Pedestrian Refuge. In fact by using central bus stops 100% of people will need to cross the roads and at least 6 lanes on each side. Does the current design ensure safety of these pedestrians any better? All reports suggest otherwise.

* Further they support the idea of central lane as it allows bus stops close to traffic light junctions

This is a money saving argument to get away from building crossways or an equally desperate attempt to build BRT on roads without adequate width for incorporating crossways / subways as their design needs wider footpaths (a mouth of a subway itself is typically 5-6 feet wide). In fact by virtue of making pedestrians mingle at the junction, all traffic lights have to incorporate this within the traffic lights cycle and hence reduce speed of travel - effectively taking away the R (Rapid) within the acronym BRT.

In medical research and practice there is a concept of fidelity. If a treatment has to implemented one has to ensure that it is done to with truthfulness to the original treatment concepts core principles. Where fidelity standards are poor, treatment success rates are poor. Hence the western medical practice does not allow cutting corners, its protocol driven. If I as much as raise a dose from 10 to 20 instead of 15, the pharmacist calls me and asks for justification and if unsatisfied will not dispense the medication. Attached is an image of a typical BRT design, it’s a single carriage way design and it is 105meters wide. Bogotá designs if I remember correctly were 104m wide. Basically the reason why we cannot see the wide footpaths and safe crossways is that we do not have the additional 12 feet needed and we seem to be satisfied with the idea of 100 feet being sufficient. Some of you may have seen a best seller called copycat marketing. Its book giving examples of brands that spread world over copying their success script - the core principles are never messed with, the soft touches can be modified. When there has been evidence through out of a compromise in basic principles why not question it. If the planners had been questioned sufficiently and strongly we could have done much better.

4. But there are other planning failures. A BRT can carry masses, in Bogotá up to 40,000 people are carried per hour. In Pune the total passenger trips across all routes proposed for BRT is 8170 / hour (although on some identified BRT routes in Pune the passenger trips per hour is as low as 2000 to 4000 only). By any standard this is a small number. Why then should we bother with a BRT? That 50% of these 8170 passengers are carried by Pune’s dilapidated buses suggests that improving the quality of buses, rationalising routes and frequencies will offer substantial gains. Equally, unlike most successful BRT projects the world over, Pune’s BRT roads are scattered all over, the average length of BRTS routes = 2.8 miles or 4.5 km. Without a good feeder service, how would one get to these BRT routes? BRTS will only add speed on these short stretches, but by how many minutes? If one travels 8km at 30 km per hour it takes 16 minutes or 8 minutes at 60km / hour. Simple maths suggests that for short distances speed never matters. Travelling for 4.5 km by buses at 60 and not 30 will save only 4 minutes.

5. Sadly, our planners do not specify how BRT in it self will get people to switch from use of personal vehicles to buses? In Pune, it costs the same to travel in a two wheeler as it will to buy a bus ticket. Further an interested reader may compare the ticket/pass prices of Pune buses versus BEST. It becomes obvious that a hugely superior BEST is offering value for money while the more expensive PMT is offering dusty, rusted, broken buses with poorly trained staff and irrational routes at frequencies of a bus every 30-60 minutes of huge number of routes. Unless this equation changes, as it has in London, where there is no petrol subsidy (it costs more than twice compared to India), no free parking and a stiff congestion charge, we may end up with a BRT system plying empty buses. By implementing tough measures London’s bus riders-ship increased over 30% and less than a fourth of commuters use personal vehicles inside city centre. For more details please read pages 8 to 13 of my article Pune Caught in Whirlpool. Curitba too had to force people in to buses. Downtown parking in Curitba has been either totally banned or made so expensive via municipal fees that it is effectively prohibited for most motorists – thus making the local bus and "BRT" system the only realistic alternative. Curitba has been able to take advantage of land-use controls forcing development to cluster around the transit arterials. Is there any assurance from our planners that we could emulate these tough measures? It is now evident from a number of articles (available here) that many Western countries where BRT was implemented passengers per hour figures are not as high as expected. Like the West, Indians have due to lack of choice been forced in to the habit of travelling in their personal vehicles. Thus any measures not affecting this dynamic directly or indirectly will most likely fail.

When I make points in favour of London’s model, people have pointed out the difference between population densities of Delhi and London. Delhi’s density is twice that of London. But these very people have nothing to say when I point out that Mumbai’s density is 2.5 times that of Delhi!! The virtual neglect of trying to understand the success behind Mumbai’s BEST is appalling. Our cities have more in common with Mumbai & London where already built up areas need a bus service and road width makes BRT an illusory concept. One only needs to look at London's figures - 700 routes, 6500 buses and 5,400,000 passengers. And then compare them with Mumbai's figures which are almost half with regards all 3 parameters to see how the models fit well and also work well. I do feel that JNNURM funds are being wasted due to wrongful prioritisation of BRT over a basic bus service that would serve most of our cities very well. That such factors need looking in to first is obvious when one looks at the fact that the PMT runs too many routes, several dozens less than 10km!! This is where revamping and rationalisation of routes is vital (like the BEST routes which run length and breadth of Mumbai and overlap thus making huge choice and good frequencies a reality). Mumbai has 3391 buses, 350 routes covering 3 times the area and 4 million passengers per day (= to Pune's population), it is hard to understand why PMT has over 200 routes with just about 1000 buses? I have in recent times been pointed by some to also highlight how well the Chennai bus service runs. I have now checked up their website http://www.mtcbus.org/ and share some information. They like BEST carry 4 million passengers each day - up by half a million since 02/03, have a fleet of 3084 - up from 2773 in 02/03 with an average life of a bus ~ 4 years + (down from 6+). In contrast Bangalore has 5K buses but badly managed. Here is food for thought - wonder why people in Mumbai and Chennai are not shouting for BRT?

We need a comprehensive plan with clearly identified priorities, I suggest one below.
  • Reform the basic bus service provision (rationalise bus routes, frequencies, adequate number travel worthy buses, garages and depots with possible workforce optimisation to reduce overheads) and ensure the city has footpaths.
  • Mobility on roads can be improved through better traffic discipline (needs education, change in licensing procedures) and synchronising signals. We can do a lot by considering use of bus only ways and one-way options along parallel roads (we use these strategies sub-optimally). The zebra as described already is immensely effective too in evenly spacing the traffic.
  • Use simpler alternatives – bus only routes (South Mumbai’s Girgaum road for over 3 decades has one section open to buses in one direction. This clever ploy allows private vehicles to get in to any of the off-lanes but only after a detour (as mixed flow is allowed from other direction).
  • Use non-segregated bus lanes where possible, but not before point 1
  • Use segregated bus lanes where possible but not before point 1. For reasons mentioned, peripheral segregated lanes need considering.
  • Bus transport needs enhancing by having smart cards, single fare strategy, wide double doors for quick entry/exits. London uses all principles of BRT except segregated lanes.
  • Implement ways of getting people to switch to buses. Educate people; we need campaigns the size of Pulse polio. Public Consultation during the planning phase it self offers this opportunity. Talk to the real experts, the ones who live on the streets of the given project or who travel on it (in contrast 3 public workshops were done in Pune, each attended by same group of people / citizens / NGOs – majority with their own biased views on the matter).
  • Manage demand and capacity – this is a vital piece of jigsaw neglected by PMC planners. To consider offering increased FSI and expand geographical limits of a city is not the solution conducive with sustained long term growth. If anything lack of simultaneous increase in public transport facilities, affordable healthcare, affordable quality education, sanitation, water and electricity makes such increase in demand unexplainable and unjustified. When we have a city where footpaths remain occupied by garbage skips, pigsties and public lavatories, there can be no reason to raise FSI. The city needs a whole systems approach as demonstrated in this document.
Bad planning and implementation often means waste of money on useless projects. Pune has spent 50 crores on a pilot BRT route when the money should have been spent on getting the basics correct. This is a well known principle of ‘opportunity costs’. This basic principle has also been neglected by our BRT planners.

Instead of looking elsewhere (Western models) Pune and Delhi should look at BEST for inspiration. In addition, not exploring non-BRT bus priority measures as used in UK has also been a cause of systemic failure. It is time to hit the pause button and take stock. We need to go back to the drawing board and ensure we get the simple basics correct, only then can we hope to achieve success in improving mobility in our cities.

Dr Adhiraj Joglekar
www.driving-india.blogspot.com

An appendix with links to all referenced documents is given below
I clearly favour non-segregated peripheral bus lanes used only during non-peak time. The documents listed below connect with correct implementation of this strategy. People argue that because law enforcement is poor in India non-segregated lanes will not work. But we have seen the reality – to ensure the segregated lanes in Delhi and Pune, huge numbers of police have had to deployed, thus such arguments don’t hold any sway logically.

1. My document principles of bus lanes show two things – page 3 shows how a badly planned peripheral bus lane can go wrong (an actual real life case example is explained). Importantly page 4 shows how conflict with off lanes can be reduced.

2. Another real life case example of peripheral bus lanes, smart signals, land use policies from London. Please download this document by clicking here.

3. Land use policies are vital for prioritising buses. In UK nobody can open a supermarket / shopping mall without allowing space for buses to stop / terminate outside the shopping malls. Here is an example of land use policies prioritising buses.

4. I am also offering a link comparing different bus transport models in London/Mumbai and Pune. Click here to read this comparison.

5. Change the public image regarding buses – public campaigns are a must, click here to excerpts from London buses free magazine

6. London could have implemented BRT; instead, they chose to retain the natural assets of its city roads & culture. Further the authorities by way of congestion charging earned money to enhance public transport (very different from our model of spending money on BRT projects that are not feasible for out cities). Here is a link to a collage celebrating the assets of The Mall, a road between Buckingham Palace and Strand.

7. Case example of land use policy – a road converted in to a thriving space for pedestrians.

8. I have made reference to improving traffic flow and mobility. The Pune Municipal Corporation is in receipt from me several documents that may help them achieve this, these are listed below
  1. My document principles of bus lanes show two things – page 3 shows how a badly planned peripheral bus lane can go wrong (an actual real life case example is explained). Importantly page 4 shows how conflict with off lanes can be reduced.
  2. Another real life case example of peripheral bus lanes, smart signals, land use policies from London. Please download this document by clicking here.
  3. Land use policies are vital for prioritising buses. In UK nobody can open a supermarket / shopping mall without allowing space for buses to stop / terminate outside the shopping malls. Here is an example of land use policies prioritising buses.
  4. I am also offering a link comparing different bus transport models in London/Mumbai and Pune. Click here to read this comparison.
  5. Change the public image regarding buses – public campaigns are a must, click here to excerpts from London buses free magazine
  6. London could have implemented BRT; instead, they chose to retain the natural assets of its city roads & culture. Further the authorities by way of congestion charging earned money to enhance public transport (very different from our model of spending money on BRT projects that are not feasible for out cities). Here is a link to a collage celebrating the assets of The Mall, a road between Buckingham Palace and Strand.
  7. Case example of land use policy – a road converted in to a thriving space for pedestrians.
  8. I have made reference to improving traffic flow and mobility. The Pune Municipal Corporation is in receipt from me several documents that may help them achieve this, these are listed below –
  1. Link 1 is Road Marking Guide used in UK. Because all rules and similar, we can use the principles on our roads as well.
  2. Link 2 is Traffic Signs Manual used in UK - gives exact details of where and how to place the signs.
  3. Link 3 is related to above but focuses on warning signs.
  4. I have also compiled a document showing how correct placement of signals can help stop people stopping beyond the stop line. Please note that in UK they have a crossing area of a different shade / colour at signals (not zebra). I think this is a good policy because it takes away confusion. The Delhi and Chandigarh Traffic Police websites clearly state all vehicles should stop at zebra (not controlled by lights) and give way to pedestrians. Now where there are traffic lights, vehicles and pedestrians should follow the lights, but where there is no traffic light but only zebra pedestrians have right of the way. Thus in UK by removing the zebra at traffic lights they have made it easier to follow rules. The only reason why we may not follow this policy in India is because many times signals are not working (power supply problems). In short when traffic lights are not working, automatically pedestrians should have right of way on the zebra.
  5. A link to proposed pavement, parking and licensed hawkers scheme – click here
  6. Pavements are important for ensuring mobility; this compilation shows how a footpath should never lose its identity.
  7. Promoting cycling – an image comparing parking lot outside Cambridge Train Station in 2007 against Pune Train Station in the same year. While Pune lost its cycling culture, Cambridge has preserved it – Here is a video show casing Cambridge cycling culture.
As people in Mumbai have queried about what may help Mumbai, a separate note is offered below
I have written to the AGM Amdekar (BEST) about this in past, there is much to gain from following London’s footsteps, more so because historically the models are very similar. In fact even today the statistics show resemblance –

One only needs to look at London's figures - 700 routes, 6500 buses and 5,400,000 passengers. And then compare them with Mumbai's figures which are almost half with regards all 3 parameters to see how the models fit well and also work well.

It is hence obvious that Mumbai can make huge progress in offering a better BEST in the 21st century by following simple and relatively non-expensive bus priority measures listed below –
  1. BEST needs to expand on its smart ticketing quickly
  2. Introduce more and eventually replace old buses with low floor buses with automated double doors for fast entry / exit (this speeds up travel significantly). The low floor buses used currently are again used sub-optimally as the rear double doors are not always in use.
  3. The ACT governing BEST requires conductors on board, this adds to huge overheads for any organisation, affecting improvements to the service. By going the smart tickets route, the conductors would not be needed. Using London buses i-bus system can also pave way for on board automated announcements. Someone had pointed out the need for a friendly conductor to tell you where to get off – in a crowded bus how many can speak to a conductor at the other end of the bus? And don’t we see passengers ask each other for guidance? Such archaic reasons are not good enough to retain conductors on board. Money spent on their salaries will be better spent on making other improvements.
  4. Mr Mehta has in past suggested that conductors offer security - but do they really? It did not stop a bus getting blown outside Century Bazar in 1992, there are no conductors in Mumbai Locals (12 coaches packed with people) and if anything arguments (including fist fights) between passengers - conductor over small change is the commonest form of aggression on Mumbai buses.
  5. By above I do not suggest redundancies or job losses. In fact to use humans as ticket vendors in 21st century is the worst insult possible. Its time these conductors are re-trained for driving more buses, doing customer satisfaction surveys, manning help lines, etc (this offers better value for money spent on their salaries than the way they are currently deployed).
  6. Mumbai will have to take tough measures –
  • Implement peripheral peak time non-segregated bus lanes
  • The best routes to start such lanes are on roads such as Marine Drive, Haji-Ali, Marine Lines, Caddle road, Western/Eastern highways – these are good initial considerations because very few if any left turns in to off lanes conflict with bus lanes on these routes.
  • Implement congestion charging
  • Implement strict paid parking policies
  • Single ticketing across the city
  • Change the public image regarding buses – public campaigns are a must, click here to excerpts from London buses free magazine
Dr Adhiraj Joglekar
www.driving-india.blogspot.com

Last Updated 22 June 2008

Comments

Vasanth's picture

BRT on one way roads should be easy compared to 2 way roads

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Most of the places like Bogota or Pune or Delhi have implemented BRT on 2 way roads. Bangalore is comprised of lot of one way roads. I think if designed carefully, we will not face the problems of pedestrain crossing the motor traffic lanes like Pune or Delhi.
tsubba's picture

brts. wow doc!!

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doc. first and foremost thanks for compiling this encyclopedic post. wow! soopar references doc and i am yet to go through all your cross references!! we had gone through the e2 documentaries here too. the e2-walas have now made it pay per view. it was free earlier. did you see the one on amsterdam? as far as land use goes, pune has generally done good with the sahyadris. now, to brts. to do justice to your monumental work, this will have to be a multi part response. please pardon me if you hear from me multiple number of times. i will start of with bangalore, because i can talk about it without looking up my references.
idontspam's picture

This is it

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"To solve problems of congestion where the root of the problem lies deeply connected with driver behaviour, one would think the solution is better driver training, good road signage, synchronised signals, etc. Trying to solve the above problem with BRT is like treating malaria with anti-cancer drugs. It simply will not work. "

This comment alone is sufficient to disprove the need for BRT. Look at places like singapore? What BRT exists? Still there is smooth public transit. Our driving behavior and traffic engineering infrastructure needs to be fixed. After that nobody will need BRT.

tsubba's picture

public transit

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not diasgareeing that huge investments need to be made in urgently improving the basics, but singapore is a bad example. singapore has metro system doing what people are trying get the brts to do in indian cities. hardly any cities of the size surviving purely on basics of driver discipline, engineering and technology and hardly any surviving without it.
idontspam's picture

Metro has to be the people mover

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You are right. Metro is actually the big people mover in SG and not the buses But my point was for Bangalore where there will be a metro and the busing can be reworked around it to remove the need for BRT. BLR can ill afford lanes for BRT.
santsub's picture

Traffic Discipline is very important

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Well we all agree and are debating on Mass rapid transport but I am sure Discipline and courtesy on road with proper law and education is utmost important - even if we build metro, monos or BRTS it will not stop the chaotic driving practices the worst thing is accidents that take lives sometimes small kids sometimes aged ones or sometimes even young citizens. There is an article about a young lady who was killed by a Bus because of rash driving - to top it she was engaged and was getting married soon...

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Woman_killed_a_week_after_engagement/articleshow/3178645.cms

Isnt this one more reason for us to implement law and order and discipline first before we plan anything else?

Vasanth's picture

Looking for Naveen's comment on this

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Well, Naveen has the other way of thinking. Looking forward for his comment on this. But, as I said, Bangalore is having lot many oneways with 2-3 lanes such as residency road, KG Road etc where not necessarily BRT, but buses can be given 1 or 2 dedicated lanes. Here, there is no need for the pedestrains to cross the road to enter the median. 2 wheelers can be saved from accidents as we see KG road as a bus mess with 2 wheelers and small cars hiding among them.

Putting BRT on a 2 way  is a challenge.  We need a pilot Monorail of say 5 km on the proposed alignment to see how viable is it for Bangalore or any other Indian city. None of our babus seems to be driving towards it.

tsubba's picture

public transport

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not really addressing any of the points raised so far, just some thoughts around the subject. brts is a mode of public transport. creating a dichotomy between basics and public transport and calling to prioritize one before the other is like devegowda's slogan of rural vs urban - mostly of rhetorical value but nothing really below the surface. it is not an either this OR that type of a game. it is this AND that type of a game. politicians can make the slogans and chose to do one over the other in their tenure. but the city will outlast any politician's tenure and will eventually have to solve all its problems. penalosa did the promenade. but as important as it is, bogota cant survive on that promenade alone. it has to go beyond that and solve its other problems too. the only question is how late in the day does it begin to address its other problems. public transport is not a solution to traffic problem. public transport is a solution to a transportation problem even if it is sold as a traffic problem. people build and invest in public transport in the hopes of solving the transportation problem, to give a structure to the city, to provide social access, to multiply its potential and so on. you cannot address the traffic problem without solving the transport problem, though you can potentially solve the transport problem, without solving the traffic problem. (moscow and some italian cities) a public transport system designed to only traffic problem will neither solve the traffic problem nor the transport problem. because traffic problem is really not a problem on its own merit, it is merely symptomatic of a whole lot of other problems. in most of the indian cities, where they are asking the brts question, it is fair to ask the public transportation question - does the city need public transport? now, agreed that there are other related issues but the basic question is valid- does the city need public transport? answer to that question is not 'no the city doesnot need public transport, it needs to solve the traffic problem and find solution to transport in traffic'. again, getting the basics right is not a cheap proposition. you cant solve basics by doing one junction here and one junction there. you have to do them all. each junction comes at 10-20 crore a pop in bangalore. even for at grade junctions, if you really want to do them properly many of the junctions will need slip lanes and turning lanes. which means land acquisition. which means $$$. same is true of transport problem too. its expensive and solving it is not so easy. it comes with its own set of constraints. none of this was ever cheap in any city and none of this will ever be cheap in any city. the real question can pune or bangalore afford not to solve the transport problem given our existing density and given our projected densities. remember these things have an impact of atleast a 100 years. nobody in newyork city now asks if it was expensive to build the subway. 1903 NYC would make 2008 kaLasipaaLya proud.
s_yajaman's picture

What conditions need to be true for a successful BRTS

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Dr. ASJ,

If you could indulge us here a bit.  What conditions need to be true for a successful BRTS - soft and hard - based on good working models?

Some examples come to mind (may not be true)

a. Minimum length of the BRST corridor is about 12 km (so that travel time differences become significant

b. 6 lane (3 on each way) for the entire stretch

c. Demand along the corridor should be a minimum of 10000/hr to a max of 30,000/hr

d. Lanes need to be enforced on these corridors with bus only lanes at least during peak hours

e. Pedestrian facilities along the corridor - a crossing every 500m, etc.

etc, etc.

Regards,

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

idontspam's picture

TS I disagree

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Public transport is to move people, traffic management is to make both public and private transport move "efficiently". Why the focus on traffic management? because we already have public transport. It only needs to move efficiently which is what BRT does. BRT is not rockets or aeroplanes they are the same buses moving in a dedicated corridor instead of mingling with other traffic and getting slowed down. Now by making the flow of traffic orderly and move efficiently (efficiently = 45-50kmph on streets without obstructions) you can achieve the same purpose. Its not like the buses need to be speeding at 80kmph since they anyway need frequent stops. If you want to have buses moving like metro (handle more traffic and faster) build a metro there instead.

I dont feel the need to have seperate cordoned off lanes etc to make it a BRT, just my view though. Ensuring bus bays are present and the bus lane is not abused by other private vehicles (by enforcement) is good enough. Public transport we already have. Metro will augment its capacity.

tsubba's picture

bangalore's tbs is not pathetic

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bangalore: i think 'pathetic' is not a correct description of bangalore's bmtc services. bmtc is easily one of the best services in the country. i would say top three. and easily the best for large cities with bus-only public transport systems. specifically, traditional bus system(TBS) of bangalore shares loads levels similar to mumbai and chennai. in bangalore, buses account for 42% of the total trips. chennai(41%) and mumbai(42%). strikingly similar. so the bmtc is on par with the best in the country as far as sharing the transportation load goes. in gross terms bmtc does 2.6 million*, mtc 4 million, best 4.5 million. *2.6 million is an old statistic, just discovered that 2008 figures are 3.8 million, but let us work with 2.6 million for the moment bcoz i dont have corresponding 2008 stats for the general traffic. bangalore's TBS, BMTC, has been turning up smart profits for the past few years and their buses usually turn up in a natty blue. and they are not too shy about experimenting: they've innovated and introduced new types of services, and have experimented in areas such as fuels, technology, services even ideas on roping in autos. so what are people here cribbing about? the chatter that you hear on this site is more of a criticism rather than a complaint. i am pretty sure if we were a bunch of mumbaikars, even BEST would have had a bit of sounding off from us. :) ----------------- http://jnnurm.nic.in/nurm... http://www.mcgm.gov.in/ir... http://www.bmtcinfo.com/e... http://www.mtcbus.org/ http://farm4.static.flick... http://www.mcgm.gov.in/ http://jnnurm.nic.in/nurm... ----------------- note on chennai figures: chennai (1992 figures) bus: 2.8million(38 %) trains: .31 million(4%) total: 7.45 million distance break up not available. these are 1992 stats. the same report claims that two wheeler population has grown at 60% per annum between 1984 and 2005 and total vehicle count at 50%. according to the statistic you've given currently MTC handles 4 million passengers /day. current population of chennai is 7.5 million. and according to their cdp chennai sees percapita 1.3 trips per day (1992 statistic) that is about 9.75 million trips per day in chennai. (assuming trips = person) that is MTC handles about 41 % of trips in chennai.
tsubba's picture

the praja bmtc crib sheet

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on 'bmtc is generally good, so what are people here cribbing about?' well, broadly, people are really talking about the big picture of public transport in bangalore and finetuning bmtc to bangalore's current and anticipated needs. its respectable performance comes despite some glaring holes in service and operational models. for example bmtc barely manages to register an impact on 46% of the short haul services(<9kms) and even on long haul there are some glaring examples of important sources and sinks that are not connected. folks here are generally talking about issues such as this. on one end we have people who are thinking of micro routes and connecting unconnected sources and sinks - route rationalization. then there are folks like narayan who are thinking about network type - grid model, zone and spoke, hub and spoke etc. on the other hand we have people like murali sir, who have seen the bmtc services from close quarters for long periods, and have heard all about the types of ideas we generate, and argue that the fundamental issue is the operational model. while they acknowledge the work done by bmtc, they say a large part of bmtc's success is because bmtc is a monopoly in public transport, which ofcourse holds true for mumbai and chennai and a whole host of other large cities. They argue that, whatever performance can be squeezed from that operational model has already been squeezed and the next level of performance improvements can only happen if the operational model is changed to unshackle the bus services from the monopoly of the state owned corporation. others fear that inlieu of proper regulatory frameworks, this would amount not not so much as an unshackling of the system, as it would to unleashing the wrath of system(buses and private operators, even if they are from corporate sectors and not fly-by-night operators). that i think is the point at which discussion on that topic has arrived at here. out there in the city itself, many of the important people know about murali sir's push. led by naveen, there is some traction generated by members here on the idea of brts. But the actual specific routes identified based on classical designs are few (trans's designs). Most routes are mixed type localized designs that are based on considerable knowledge of local traffic movements and constraints and stick to no particular theory about median or kerb side stops or other classical brts characteristics. authorities have been contacted with these ideas and since we have had a bit of reshuffle in the government, it will prolly take some time for it surface again.
tsubba's picture

impact of a mode & test for workhorse

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let us go a bit further. effectiveness of a mode depends on factors such as travel characteristics, the way the city is laid out etc.. BEST services a parabolic city with highly directional growth and travel characteristics. MTC services a semi circular city. BMTC services a city with a circular geometry and omni directional sprawl. (there is a line diagram in the cttp bangalore report which shows that in terms of traffic, NE-SW and SW to N are the heaviest traffic directions, the rest of the city the trip distribution is fairly uniform and evenly spread out ALL across the geometry of the city. i.e., while there are two prominent directions, all other directions have similar loads also, the source and destination of travel are fairly distributed all across the city. i.e., travel demand map is a dense mesh.) so the point is this: BMTC has to cover more directions. because of geometry bangalore has to run more routes to reach more areas. and because of sprawl, catchment per area is low. BEST has about 337 routes, chennai 617 routes. BMTC 4665 schedules per day. (i am guessing this translates to about 400 routes.) a related hypothesis of mine based on chi-by-eye(i have not checked the numbers): in bangalore road network imposes certain constraints. there are only a few arterial type roads- those which are wide and have long range. most roads are of medium width and have short to medium ranges. so to account for the volumes in traffic, bangalore has taken recourse to a lot of oneways. but oneways decrease the effective reach of buses bcoz they increase the access range for passengers in atleast one travel direction. is it the main workhorse? in bangalore the average trip length is 9 kms. bmtc accounts for 70%(2.4 million) of bangalore's long haul trips. long haul trips themselves account for about 54%(3.4 million) of all the bangalore's trips(6.3 milion). it is clearly the main worskhorse in bangalore. (remember i am still taking from old statistics) for chennai, i dunno the stats wrt kms, but considering that trains in chennai account for single digit percentages, i think buses are the workhorse in chennai too. in mumbai, trains account for 75% of passenger-km and buses 15% of the passenger-kms. trains are the clear workhorses. 25% of buses act as feeders to trains. and considering that the average trip length by buses is 4.7kms as opposed to the 22.2 kms by trains, and 14.2 kms by cars/vans, it is also clear that BEST has a specific focus. With the trains doing all the long haul, the buses concentrate on servicing the short haul. A measure of effectiveness of BEST, is ofcourse that the taxis, which average similar range(5.8km) as the buses, account for only 3-4% of the passenger-kms. so buses are beating their competition in short haul. this is very important. in mumbai buses perform well because they service short haul and short haul only. even in the best of systems, there is some amount of uncertainity in travel times added for each km traveled. (this is very well studied, and primarily occurs because the people driving the vehicles are people who are psychological beings who excercise their wills and judgement at every instant, even in systems where driver quality is high. the sum total of all this indepedent distributed decision making is entropy.) n as short haul trips accumulate relatively small amounts of uncertainity/trip, a short haul provider can guarantee a quality of service with higher confidence. now, you can bound the uncertainity interval by improving traffic conditions, but you cannot eliminate it (which is proven by many studies in universities across the globe from california to china over the atlantic). this has direct consequence on operations, which in turn has an affect on the user's mobility. we have seen some data points on this in discussions on bangalore too: navshot's data. vayu vajra etc etc...
tsubba's picture

doc, one request

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can you help us understand the travel characteristics in pune? that is a fundamental thing to understand.
asj's picture

Interesting comparisons

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TS, thanks for bringing up interesting facts and figures above. While a lot about Pune's public transport is mentioned here I will stress some additional facts about Pune.

74.9% use 2 wheelers, 13.4 cars, 6.9 auto-ricks - thus buses are used by a fraction of Pune population.

The average commute is 8km. I spent some time today counting and analysing the 210 routes on which the ~1000 buses run.

49 routes are under 10km. Well over half of 210 routes run less than 15km.

This begs the question - why are the buses failing to attract commuters in Pune when average commute is just 8km.

The answer lies in the slightly different interpretation of the analysis of facts / figures for Mumbai provided by TS above. There is no doubt BEST has a specific role, one they perform very well. Their philosophy as described on their website is as under -

The primary role of the BEST is to supplement Suburban Rails, which is the mass carrier. It is for this reason that BEST always gives priority for feeder routes and thereafter for East-West connectors where the railways have absolutely no direct role to play. The third priority is the long distance trunk route, which is an alternative to Suburban Railways, apart from being inter-corridor link between Suburbs and City.

Now the average commute on a Mumbai bus may well be just 4.5km but the buses do not run short distances. Having lived and used BEST for 30 years and travelled from Southern tip up to Panvel, I can vouch that majority of routes are long (~20km or more). What this does is it allows BEST to plan routes such that they overlap substantially. Thus buses starting at Southern tip going up to Vashi / Central / Western subsurbs travel across diferent arterial routes. Hence for someone travelling from Haji-Ali to Dadar there is not one bus at every 20 minutes, there is a choice of half a dozen buses every 5 minutes, effectively increasing frequency for a given passenger (and accomplishes BESTs strategy of zero waiting times during peak times).

For cities without the support of Mumbai's train infrastructure essentiall, buses do all the work - this explains why average commute distances on buses in other cities may be slightly higher.

The other big difference in Mumbai figures reported by TS is use of taxi's. As ricks are banned from souh - central Mumbai, there is no cheaper alternative. Taxis are expensive in comparison to BEST. In stark contrast, Pune and cities where rickshaws remain an affordable alternative they compete with buses. Now compare this with someone wanting to travel from a major residential area in Model Colony to Pune Station. PMT website suggests I have two buses with a frequency of 50 minutes and 1 hour 20 minutes respectively!!! Which person who has not lost his sanity will wait that long, pay Rs 1 per km and then endure going on a rusty, dusty, broken and run down bus (which may never turn up or if it does may not stop for you). Ricks and better still personal 2 wheelers are thus the most cost-effective option (and unless drastic changes are made in the way the buses are operationalised nothing will change).

I hope this helps inform the discussion.

ASJ

PS: Srivathsa, you have described some attributes of BRT very well. Sadly, I don't know many roads in Mumbai or Pune that can implement all these features. Just yesterday NY Times have reported what they are doing in NY. Note there are no median routes nor are they segregating the bus lanes, and the article explains why (the very reason that affects us too).

I also enjoyed reading the dance between traffic problem Vs transportation problem. Generally agree, but I can swear with hand on my heart that a simple measure of respecting the pedestrain zebra actually improves mobility. I was at busy central London junction, 10 meters away was a zebra, masses of pedestrainas and cars waiting to give them right of the way - the effect - unlike India where vehicles zoom in herds from one junctional chaos to another at this UK junction there was no chaos because the traffic flow was stemmed and evened out by virtue of giving way to pedestrians.

tsubba's picture

ids

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ids, the main bottleneck is signals and stops for buses. midblock, there is no dwelling and the buses can flow at the rate of the rest of the traffic. #1. but at a stop, a vehicle ready to move has to wait for a gap in traffic for it to be able to merge in to the main line. this adds a wait time for buses. you should appreciate that a bus driver has to do this dozens of time in each trip and all day. for him this is a very important parameter. because of this wait time, a good chunk of the drivers world over dont pull right next to curb. so they designed bus bays to force the drivers to the curb so that it is safer for the pax. but bus bays dont solve the merging problem. at the exit of the bay you still have to wait. that is why recommended locations for bus stops are either before or after a signal. buses can use the gaps in flow to pull out. #2. even with bus stops around a signal the bus operation is governed by signals like the rest of the traffic. this adds to delays in bus operation. now again buses have to wait at these signals all through the day. which slows down their trip time and hence their ability cycle through the trips faster. which means the agency running the buses has to employ more buses to achieve a frequency that meets the demand or to even create new demand. now, let us consider an idealized environment. there is good driver discipline and engineering is top notch. importantly, there are no back-ups. in each cycle signals clear all the vehicles that arrive at an intersection and there is no back up. because of [1] and [2], the main design components of brts are intersection design and a fast merge queque design at the stops to address the issue of signal delays and merge delays. prioritized lanes are an artefact of the fact that for the two main design elements to work, you have to segregate buses from the rest of the traffic at the signal and at the stop. otherwise, in the ideal case described above, segregated lanes are a nice feature to have but are not necessary. naveen had recognized this long time ago, though he never said it out explicitly. he was talking about gates, automated bollards. i didnot understand why he was talking about them then. but that is the thing. there are no proven solutions for segregating buses at signals and stops -short of a driver's honour code which under the duress of daily commute is broken world over. now, remember this is all the ideal case. reality is bcoz of volumes involved we have jams and will continue to have jams despite significant improvements in basics. think about it, if all vehicles followed lane system - 1 car/auto/bus per lane, 2 bikes per lane at the signal, then pile up would be 100s of meters at each signal on many of our roads resulting in grid locks. brts is mainly a system to make buses run more efficiently. my main attraction to brts is that because the system is based on buses, there is a lot of potential to mix and match. there is route flexibility. but even in design and construction, the entire system can be a mix of classical brts, and localized customizations, which gives a lot of flexibity. this all what doc is also saying. but he is also making a point about cost. but i am talking about making public transport a priority and creating infrastructure for it to operate efficiently. if there is no money for low end public transport like brt where is the money for highend metro?
Vasanth's picture

BEST vs BMTC

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I came to know from most of my friends that Mumbai is a long city with very less width which makes the public transport like the Local Trains and the BEST buses easy to serve with just few routes. Growth of Mumbai is either on northern side or southern side. Whereas Bangalore is going in all the 4 directions with new layouts coming up overnight. Even the newer layouts are served by BMTC. I just had gone to some corner of the city to see how much the NICE road had progressed. NICE road had ended without land to progress and after that there was a mud road with all the vehicles dancing around and there was a village which has now become part of the city. I was surprised to see 2 BMTC buses ready to serve there. What I mean to say is that even the corners of Bangalore are covered although Bangalore is widespread unlike Mumbai which is longer and makes easy to provide public transit.

Basically Bangalore's BMTC is based on the assumption that everyone works around Majestic and it serves the people who still work around Majestic,Vidhanasoudha, MS building. People who work here mostly are with less income and they donot have any alternative to travel.They are still patronizing the BMTC services.

BMTC like TS said has experimented with variety of services. BEST has got not so many varieties. BEST has introduced the kinglong buses whereas BMTC introduced
Volvo for the first time in the country including the BEST which could not afford to invest in Volvos. BMTC made the private operators like airlift who did a lot of air to shyaway with their Vayuvajra services to International airport which otherwise would have been a costly affair. Scenario here is same as that of a poorman using BMTC service instead of private vehicle to Government offices in and around Majestic area. This time it is a rich guy since his taxi bill to International Airport would be far higher.

BMTC was the first organization to introduce reservation for city buses. Although murali sir claims it is just another publicity campaign, somesort of these kind of innovations are good.

I am expecting Vayuvajra like services to Koramangala, Bannerghatta Road, Old HAL Airport road, ITPL and Electronic City along with the TTMC concept. This clubbed with reservation of seat can make BMTC lot better than what it is.

I would say that BMTC should also use the Lalloo's principle, take the money from the rich and not from the poor. Black board passes and fares should not be hiked because this is used by the weaker class of the society. Make the little stronger, the techies to get addicted to BMTC services to IT areas with plush volvos or Suvarna whatever with service from Morning 6 to late 12 (which is the time techies go home). This is where BMTC is lacking and this class of society has the access to alternative modes of commute who does all the traffic jams. A fuel price hike should be hiked to their passes and tickets rather than weaker society's black board passes. A 30-50 rupees hike for a techie is peanuts and it means a lot to a poor man. Use this to serve the needy who has got no other option other than BMTC.

Vasanth's picture

Chennai buses not aesthetic

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I have seen Chennai city buses, it is not aesthetic and doesn't look like it serves for a Metro city. You don't feel like getting in itself. Again, the average income level of Chennai is far behind that of Bangalore with lots of poor people who patronize these services irrespective of their service quality. Still people from Chennai claim their's is superior which I had experienced from my colleague from Chennai.

Now they too have introduced Volvo services but for name sake. Number of Volvos plying in Bangalore is far ahead.

To summarize BMTC is far superior than Chennai bus services and BEST. Probably Indore as said by Murali sir, which I have not seen myself may be better - but, Indore is still a small city like that of Mysore and its services should not be compared to Bangalore. Mangalore residents may then compare their's with BMTC.

Vasanth's picture

Bus Lanes Needed not necessarily BRTS

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I would say bus lanes are indeed needed either in the middle of the road or on the curbs not necessarily BRTS after seeing so many accidents especially with 2 wheelers in Bangalore wherever possible.

Yesterday I witnessed a close shave while I was standing in a medical store near my house. An young insensible person driving a bike with a baby of 1 year old sitting on the tank without pillion suddenly took an U turn in front of a BMTC bus. Bus driver was highly alert and suddenly applied the brakes. That guy vanished away like a film hero.

If the kid would have fallen of the ground the way in which he took U turn, all the BMTC buses in the vicinity would have been burnt and BMTC would have carried the nameplate 'Killer BMTC' in TV9 news channel. This is what happening with the young insensible turks driving the bike at whims.

Seperate bus lanes wherever possible not necessarily BRTS is needed for buses to prevent the accidents. Still there are wide chances for these kind of 'heroes' entering bus lanes, but it can be minimized.

s_yajaman's picture

Junctional chaos and mobility!!!

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Dr.ASJ,

unlike India where vehicles zoom in herds from one junctional chaos to another at this UK junction there was no chaos"

Brilliantly put!  I see this often when driving on 9th main in Jayanagar (next to Puttanna).  One can see there is a red light staring me in the face about 100m ahead.  But people will still speed past people trying to cross rather than waiting.

Mobility is improved by driving in lanes one behind the other.  Mobility is improved by giving way to the traffic on the right at a circle than being caught in a logjam caused by Prisoner's Dilemma.  Mobility is improved by stopping when the light turns orange and you are behind the stop sign.  Mobility is about the entire traffic and not just about myself.  When this dawns on our hordes (maybe oil would have run out by then!) then and only then will our traffic come close to being called civilized.

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

asj's picture

Its not just about cost

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Thank you for more valuable thoughts in furthering our understanding. Some additional thoughts below -

  1. Its not about costs alone. I do strongly believe that the richest countries ensure cost-effectiveness is a part of planning. Having said, my trouble with a typical BRT model is whether it is practically implementable or not on Indian roads?
  2. If we agree we do not have sufficient width to go for a full fledged BRT, we must look at other ways of ensuring bus priority.
  3. Non-segregated bus lanes at periphery is one possible solution on a number of roads.
  4. But - Non-segregated bus lanes in the middle may run in to similar problems as one needs to find additional width for bus stops, cross ways in the middle of the road (and we will still need footpaths at the periphery).
  5. Bus lanes or not, posh buses or modest buses - first we need a good netwrok. Mumbai has that. Fact is that people won't give up their personal vehicles unless they have to dig deep in to their pockets. Like Chennai, Mumbai's labour class is happy on modest buses (no one talks of a Volvo, so long as one gets from point A to B with reliability). Pune and Bangalore are perhaps victims of its middle class not wanting to use the buses. I agree that the rich should pay and not the poor and hence find congestion charging and similar measures a way forward in changing the dynamics of the game.
  6. Perhaps its luck given its geographic shape, but can that be an excuse for cities with other shapes to not find solutions that fit their demographics? I think not. I don't think London can be described as longitudinal, bu the network reaches out everywhere.
  7. Buses at periphery unable to pull out - UK Highway code rule # 198 states that drivers should give way and let buses pull out (the moment they indicate right, see video 2 on www.driving-india.blogspot.com or videos posted on my blog on Praja) - I see this in practice daily. This is question about our driving culture & ethos. But then we don't have a code of practice for drivers since 60 years of independence. However I find it hard to accept bus stops in middle of the road as a solution to our poor driving habits.

I think the if I were in Bangalore I will be asking myself one question - why is it that Mumbai and Chennai with much fewer buses carry many more passengers than in Bangalore?

ASJ 

Vasanth's picture

Answer to your question

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ASJ,

Answer to your question

 think the if I were in Bangalore I will be asking myself one question - why is it that Mumbai and Chennai with much fewer buses carry many more passengers than in Bangalore?  is written by  yourself:

Like Chennai, Mumbai's labour class is happy on modest buses (no one talks of a Volvo, so long as one gets from point A to B with reliability).

Bangalore is also having same problem, here the labour class is less and hitech people are more. I posted earlier that if BMTC puts a normal bus, it will be 100% patronized or rather over utilized by the normal users, instead if they put a hitech Volvo with 10times the cost of a normal bus and thrice the running cost, they have the uncertainity of it being used or not. Volvos are successful to BIAL since people have less options, on the other hand if you see Volvo 2 route put to a residential area JP Nagar, only 2 or 3 passengers will be travelling especially during non-peak hours. People talk about frequency of a hitech bus which will be patronized by very few people in Bangalore which is difficult to afford by any bus company.These buses can be afforded by upper class of the society who have got alternative means to travel.  Longer travels like ITPL are bad on the pocket and hence BMTC volvos to ITPL are patronized. Bus companies like BMTC should study where their prospective passenger travel rather than putting a bus to KBS and expecting people to travel there.This is where BMTC is lagging a bit.

murali772's picture

+ effective competiton - the answer

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Dr ASJ

Monumental work - as TS puts it. It needs to be made compulsory reading for all city authorities concerned with transport planning. Also, I expect it should soon be reaching the portals of academic institutions, if it already has not. For a psychologist (isn't that what you are?) to go to such depths of transport related issues, it is indeed rare. I am sure Praja feels honoured by your enriching the content of its debates.

I took time to go through (still not complete, though) before venturing to offer my comments. Though, my good friend, Capt Naveen, believes that one-way dedicated bus lanes with the magic-box (Bangalore special - constructed out of prebraicated segments, requiring no deep foundations, making for faster and cheaper jobs) under/ over-passes at junctions may be the answer for speeding up the movement of buses along the not-so-wide Bangalore roads, I am not too sure. I would go by your prescription.

In addition, I believe that the only way to make BMTC more customer-oriented is to bring in competition from reputed players, to begin with at the high-end services, on which I have elaborated more at http://praja.in/bangalore....

Will be grateful for your comments.

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

kaamyaabi aaj!

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Hi TS

BMTC operated 1200 routes even in 2004, my CCTF-vice-chairmanship days (as against the figure of 600 mentioned by you). I expect it must be a lot more now. They have kind of decided that the public will not accept the idea of changing buses, even if just one, and are therefore seeking to provide them door-to-door kind of services. This has resulted in the proliferation of routes, like say 201 A-Z, all overlapping each other, except over the last sretch. And, because of this proliferation, the frequency over the last stretches becomes low. Mr Parameswaran's recommendations had a lot of merit in this aspect. But, however much you may try to tell the BMTC lot that, with just one change, you will be able to improve the frequency greatly, they would come back to the same point that the public will not accept it.

Parameswaran's model would have made for marginal improvements. But, I was looking for a quantum leap. That's why I backed the 'Grid & feeder' model, with a self-explanatory numbering system, and I had recommended overnight switch, after sufficient PR exercises. But, BMTC introduced the grid routes, few at a time, without withdrawing any of the old routes, leading to further proliferation of the number of routes, but no significanr benefits.

If you go by the assumption that these are government organisations, and changes can happen only slowly, my approach was probably wrong. But, I was factoring in the onset of competition from competent private players, which would necessitate a mind-set change in the BMTC lot. But, with that not happening, perhaps it would have been better to go for Mr Parameswaran's model. There would have been some improvement atleast.

Essentially, TS, right from school days, I never quite liked the idea of 'hum honge kaamyaab-aek din'. That 'aek din' is an indefinite period. I want the 'kaamyaabi' today. It is happening all around you. Why should we be demanding for any less from our bus services?

Muralidhar Rao

Muralidhar Rao
asj's picture

Thanks

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Dear MR,

Thanks for your kind comments. Everyone has been very generous. I am not an expert on transport, rather being a medic who specialises in psychiatry I am a servant of the faculty of observation. Everything I share is more with a view of providing feedback and an alternative model. As the previous Chinese Premiere used to say - it does not matter if the cat is black or white so long as it kills the mice - we too need to find solutions that fit our needs.

Regards,

ASJ

asj's picture

1200 routes!!

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1200 routes (have I read it right) and about 5K buses (if I remember right), it is something that needs a lot of close scrutiny. Readers will note above that London has 700 routes, 6500 buses and 5,400,000 passengers. It covers 1579 km² (609 square miles) and had a 2006 mid-year estimated population of 7,512,400. A much wider area than Bangalore. Population figures for London are useless as 19 million tourist visited last year, not to mention many millions who travel for work in to the city.

But Chennai and Mumbai figures also show that Bangalore's model needs re-thinking as numbers seem disproportionately skewed.

ASJ

s_yajaman's picture

Closer to 2000 routes

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Did a quick check from the BMTC site.  There are close to 2000 routes with all the A,B,C and the JPV and Feeder and everything.  Had to do page down 70 times with 29 routes/page on the pull down menu!

This is called route proliferation.  Based on what Narayan had proposed, I think we can reduce the number of routes to 700-750.  BMTC needs some serious help in this.  Many of these routes have just 1-2 trips a day. 

Srivathsa

Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

silkboard's picture

You only have to look at BMTC's airport services ...

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... to understand their thinking. They have 46 Volvo buses for airport services. And they operate on 9 routes. The Electronics City to Airport has maximum 8 buses on it. Most routes have hourly services, so a 60 minute wait if you missed the bus by a minute.

If they could instead consolidate 46 buses to 3 or 4 routes, they could put 10 buses on each of them, and increase frequency to 20-40 minutes. That will increase business for their buses, as well as for the feeder cab service which isn't getting used much.

BMTC just doesn't get it that it 1) either needs to be punctual (which is tough for long routes, given the traffic conditions - entropy and turbulence on roads takes their toll), or 2) it needs to offer better frequencies on identified trunk routes. In its efforts to create a large mesh with a wider reach, it is doing us and itself a dis-service. Just look at the poor usage of most Airport Volvo routes (so many buses heading towards the airport run with just 1 or 2 passengers) and you will know.

asj's picture

The next step

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This brain storming has been well worth it, lets take it a step further. A core group should collate further information on this very specific issue and a representation meet the authorities. It will help to suggest alternative options (as done with the Airport route) and get them to pilot one or two such suggestions, once they get the concept, it won't take too long to revamp / rationalise the routes (2000-->1000 or even less but with slightly longer but overlapping routes will give much better frequencies without compromising on area covered).

ASJ

asj's picture

Must read

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Here is a link to an article on BRT related issues - http://www.fta.dot.gov/documents/issues.pdf

Highlights -

Section 2.2 Problems of Arterial Bus Priority Treatments

Here not only the width per bus lane at cross section is an issue, a very subtle admission to the fact that just as peripheral lanes conflict with off lanes, median bus lanes conflict with turning vehicles within junctions. Priority signals for buses are useful here but not easy to implement. In short, the more junctions a BRT route has, more snarls are to be expected (especially in India where we know how well our traffic behaves inside junctions).

I like the idea of HOV using bus lanes - this will also encourage car pooling / shared taxi or rickshaw schemes.

3.0 CURITIBA EXPERIENCE

This is an eye opener for anyone who wishes to impl;ement Curitiba style BRT in Indian cities.

The buses run frequently -- some as often as every 90 seconds - wonder why ?

Around 70 percent of Curitiba’s commuters use transit daily to travel to work - wonder how?

The answer is within 3.3 - decades of master planning - By 1992, almost 40 percent of Curitiba’s population resided within three blocks of the major transit arteries.

We live in an imperfect world, every city being unique. To think there can be one pre-fabrecated perfect solution will not help. We need imperfect solutions that suit our (imperfect cities) needs best.

ASJ

tsubba's picture

chicken and egg

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hi doc, thanks for the link will go through. we will keep working on this thread in parts. hmm... sure in its entirety the problem has many variables. but these things are dynamic evolving entities and it is not established that any of these factors preceeds another. chicken and egg. for example the re-configuration of existing development is not possible without running pipes(sewage,water,transport) and reconfiguration of pipes is not possible without reconfiguring the development. to break the tie they have to start somewhere. i repeat, these things have a lifecycle of hundreds of years.
asj's picture

More on rationalising routes

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I am editing and re-submiting a more detailed document here on this topic.

Its about 10 pages but is an outcome of a very interesting e-mail based brainstorming on the topic.

Will value feedback from this group.

To read the document as a google document http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dcmq89nq_15d2q376gz 

As a PDF file - http://better.pune.googlepages.com/Rationalising_bus_routes_in_Pune.pdf

Thanks

ASJ

ramesh_mbabu's picture

An eye opener for doomsayer BRTS opposers

tsubba's picture

Aww!!

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asj's picture

Good pics, not exciting enough for me

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Great pics. But why on earth should the footpaths be so narrow (once again not in keeping with IRC).

Secondly, pedestrian crossings still are without refuge. Their safety is still compromised and any sanity is due to the plethora of police enforcing this.

Thirdly, by getting large numbers of peds to mix at junctions, signal times and cycles are lonegr, thus reducing R of BRT.

Fourth, close proximity of bus stops to junctions comprmises future effective use of smart signals.

Fifth, even after 10% of Pune gets a BRT (as and when it does), it amounts to 10% of entire Pune roads. Is there any reason why BRT and the bus priority measures that I support cannot co-exist? Would we not be better off with bus priority on 60% or more of our roads? Its unlikely BRT alone can give that kind of coverage for the simple fact that most cities do not have roads as wide.

Sixth - how do we define success of BRT? Crowded buses? were the buses on this corridor pre-BRT not crowded? Personally, its how many give up on personal mode of motorised transport and switch to cycles and buses that should define success? How and when will that happen - unlikely without making use of personal motorised transport expensive than using buses, unlikely if the basics of a bus transport are pathetic.

Nothing I say is against BRT, everything I argue for, if anything will ensure better success of BRT.

ASJ 

 

mikeyohare's picture

Curitiba's BRT

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Thanks for your article and your comments about BRT. As I've written about, I think Jaime Lerner did a fantastic job in Curitiba with BRT plus other developments such as parks. It's always good to here criticism of a system, but I do feel the light railway articles are a little biased.

Michael O'Hare

Cities for People
Michael O'Hare

Cities for People
murali772's picture

No thank you, for your BRT, Mr Penalosa

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Years after the Delhi government set up a flawed bus rapid transit (BRT) system only to dump it, transport experts are again making a pitch for the benefits of BRT. Enrique Penalosa, architect of the few successful BRT systems in the world, says it's not only possible but also required in Delhi. - - - he recommends banning cars on narrow roads as "buses carry more people".
 
For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.
 
I am in overall agreement with the author of this blog, as also the many who have endorsed his opinion over the course of the wide-ranging debate here, that BRT is not as great a solution as Mr Enrique Penalosa makes it out to be. Everything else that he says is fine, including "banning of cars on narrow stretches of roads during peak hours", all of which has already been stated long ago, and even submitted to the Karnataka Government requesting implementation, way back in March '96, in my capacity then as the Chairman of Nagarik (check here), and further debated upon in PRAJA from Dec '07 onwards (check here). Quite like the first commentator had responded with "if only this would be implemented", perhaps we would have been far better off than we are today, or even Bogota, Curitiba, London (which has the far better 'bus priority system'), or wherever.
 
Even now, I would like to believe that's the only way to go, more so in smaller cities like Mysore, Mangalore, etc. Unfortunately, Hubli-Dharwar fell victim to the BRT lobby (making the citizens' lives miserable there), largely due the machinations of the "bus transport mafia confederation" led by the neta's, in order to kill the "Bendre Nagara Saarige" and perpetuate their monopoly (check this). 
 
Apart from all the discussions over this blog, are the ones posted here, and here, as also at many more places on PRAJA, bringing out the non-suitability of BRT, at least in the Indian context. Even the ToI readers' responses are more or less uniform that they don't think much of the BRT. Recent reports from Indore (check this) also seem to point in the same direction.
 
All in all, it's perhaps time we say thank you to Mr Penalosa, for all his ideas, other than the BRT.
 
Muralidhar Rao
Sanjeev's picture

where traffic volumes are high, need BRTS

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Main issue for the buses is in core city area or busy CBD area where buses can travell 10Kms / Hr speed like from Majestic - Anandrao Circle - KR Circle - Hudson Circle / Richmond Circle during morning and evening time.    Here if we have BRTS for 6 / 8 Kms,  travell time will come down and will encoruage people to shift to buses.   Similarly once buses can get BRTS upto Mekri Circle,  then the buses will be able to cover dist in short time.

MaheshK's picture

Plan it well and be very realistic

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The BRTS idea and concept is great. Will it work in our narrow roads? My suggestion would be to plan it well and be very realistic.  Take some more time. Let’s not rush it just for the heck of it. Hope BRTS works well not like the bicycle only lane. The implementing agencies need to be careful while listening to the b***s**t from the so called “experts”.

 In a related note, last night I saw the auto only lane in Malleswaram 8th main road. Mainly two wheelers were zooming leaving the autos to use the single lane that was available with other vehicles. As usual, no traffic cops were there.  

murali772's picture

priority for buses very much needed

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@Sanjeev - You can't have BRT for some 6 Km, and regular services for the rest of the length, on the same stretch of road. Marking out "bus prority lanes", or even total ban of private vehicles on certain stretches, during peak hours, would be most welcome, in my view; but, not BRT.
 
@MaheshK - No less than IIM students (who have necessarily to do a study on utilities as part of their MBA course) have told me that this blog is as comprehensive a critique of BRT as any available. At the end of it all, my vote is a "no", whatever any expert may want to say.
 
The "auto only" lane is another silly concept, which can work at best for the 1 km odd stretch along the Cubbon park, where they don't need to stop. Besides, in my opinion, it's time the city said good-bye to it (check here). 
 
Muralidhar Rao
zenx's picture

It's the most logical thing

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Assume you have limited space, and ALL traffic is choked. Successive attempts at road addition have failed to help. What would you do first?

Doesn't it make sense to (at least) proportionally allocate dedicated space to the more space-efficient mode of transport? 

That, in a nutshell, is what the BRTS does. I have no vested interest of any sort in it - but it just makes sense to dedicate 50% space to the mode that carries >50% people!!

Will it involve initial pain? Most certainly! Much of it fairer than now - and at least the pain will be reduced for 50% commuters who're not contributing to causing that pain right now.

Bogota, where this was pioneered, is now running into it's new iteration of problems with the system and needs to add capacity and updates a few things - that's a good thing. And it's still the fastest mode of transport around town!! 

Will it be totally smooth? Likely not, and we'll have to evolve our methods and variants.

But show me a smarter immediate solution (esp in conjuction with other smart solutions liek the CRS, smaller privately run shared vehicles as local feeders) that's as space efficient, cheap to build, flexible with the city's growth, and fair. 

This has GOT to be tried out. Again, if Bangalore comes to a standstill inside 6 months, we might be forced to do this anyhow. I hope so, at least.

- Sameer, Bangalore

http://linger.in

MaheshK's picture

6/8 km makes lot of sense

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BRTS for 6/8 km on a heavily travelled route makes lot of sense. Again the implementing agency (is it DULT?) need to think hard, plan it well and execute. Have they started any pilot? At least let’s try it out. If it works, that’s good. Somewhere it should work in our city.  

idontspam's picture

Whats the fundamental requirement?

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Firstly, Delhi has a dedicated bus lane on that Chrag delhi route, it also has a dedicated NMT lane. There are lots of buses & cyclists who ply on those roads, Car users filed case saying they lost road space to buses. So in all of those parameters that road to me is a success in design. It is a failure in mindset and usage. Rampant violations, car users getting into the bus lane forcefully pushing the buses onto general traffic, despite a 2000 rupee fine boards & seciruty helplessly sitting there shooing SUV's with a stick. Motor vehicles getting into the NMT lanes pushing the cyclists onto the roads. Completely renderingt he design useless. "The mindset" My SUV is bigger than your puny self waiting for a crowded bus. "the mindset" I earned this BMW and I have the right to run it over your body sleeping on the sidewalk!

Regardless of wether its a BRT or not in nomenclature there is a lane for buses which can be used by buses to go faster than the cars that ply on those streets. That in itself is a success of the design. That is all it takes, whatever names you give, there needs to be PHYSICALLY SEGREGATED lanes for buses & NMT users with appropriate signals which make them travel faster with right of way than cars. Thats is true incentive & disincentive at work.

The bus has 60% modal share in Bangalore. Last time I checked 50% means half, so buses need to get their half of the road, which means everytime we have 2 lanes one lane goes to the bus. SImple 1st grade mathematics.

Vasanth's picture

Why not BRT?

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Mr. Murali - Take BTM Layout for example, by allowing  private players are we able to reach destination faster? Your assumption is that people will leave their cars and take up private buses to goto office . We are already taking private office buses, so does many Praja.in friends, but there is no solution since it is also struck in traffic.  I am not sure how allowing private operators would solve the traffic problem? It might help common man an alternative to expensive BMTC, but there would not be any benefit to buses itself either it is private or BMTC. Again it is stuck in traffic.

You have given refrence to various links, but no one no where has agreed. It is only your own thoughts you are sharing regularly and pushing for it.

Bangalore has got lots of one way roads which can be easily used for BRTS. KG Road, JC Road, Urvashi Road etc. These can be used for Bronze Standard BRTS containing buses which operates both in mixed mode and dedicated lanes.

Outer Ring Road could have a Gold Standard BRTS which operate solely on dedicated bus lanes with articulated buses.

Hubli - Dharwad BRTS is a  Gold Standard BRTS. Due to the land loss of local people as well as non-awareness on the benefits BRTS, it is termed 'ill-conceived' rightaway.

 

murali772's picture

blinkered approach

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@ IDS - First you had the government-owned DTC bus service monopoly, which I expect was worse than our BMTC, or its earlier avatar, the BTS. When, after long, it dawned on the government that the DTC was not meeting the needs, and that a government-owned service provider had serious capacity limitations, it decided to bring in the private sector. But, instead of facilitating entry of reputed players, the powers that be came up with the BLUELINE scheme, which no businessman of any standing would want to touch, even with a barge-pole, but which found ready takers amongst the riff-raff lot (largely from the Transport Department, DTC itself, and the police - for whom it was in fact tailored). What resulted thereof was inevitable, the unfortunate part being the taint of notoreity that the whole of the private sector (not just in bus services) was burdened with, from which it is yet to recover.
 
For years together, the government did little to change the scene other than to licence some "point-to-point services" (essentially under the Contract Carriage Act), which is more suited for transporting marriage parties than for transporting commuters. Eventually, with the DTC and BLUELINE competing with each other more on killing people than transporting them, and the resulting public outcry, the Sheila Dikshit government was forced to do a re-think on the licensing question. But, even as it did well to free up power supply in the city (check here), the babudom in charge of the bus transport services wouldn't let go off its hold, and the fresh scheme that it came up with, allowed for only the likes of a Ponty Chaddha (since dead) to enter, but once again kept out the reputed names. That's the scene today, if I understand correctly, and it hasn't helped matters any. 
 
In such a scenario, is it any surprise that the Delhi-ites are revolting against the BRT? Facilitate the entry of TVS, TATA's, or even our own VRL, Sugama, etc properly, and then see the difference. When that happens, restrictions on use of cars, in whatever form, will be readily accepted by the people; not until then. And then you won't need the BRT even, nor the "experts", who have been foisting it on us. Between the reputed players, and the regulatory bodies, they will come up with the right kind of solutions (just like in the case of airline, telecom, banking, insurance, etc, services already happening today), and the Civil Society (including PRAJA) can keep a watch.
 
All the talk about SUV's, BMW's, etc will make a good copy for a AAP bhaashan at some jhuggi-jhompdi's; but, nothing beyond that. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
zenx's picture

Murali avare, The 2 issues

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Murali avare,

The 2 issues are orthogonal!! Private/public ownership of the transport systems, vs road usage and design considerations can be considered independently! The BRTS is more a design issue - and a very logical one at that. The public/.pvt ownersherhip of bus corporations has little to do with that in itself.

Also - you cannot expect private industry to take decisions that do not make short term financial sense to them - and the public goods and commons aren't always about that. So while they can run specific pieces of the puzzle efficienctly (and not always, as the catering and maintenance in the railways is proving, or the privately built bits of the Delhi Metro showed), they must operate within a set of goals and frameworks that are decided and designed totally independent of their involvement or influence. Let's not be dogmatic about state owned/private and see it as an open problem statement.

- Sameer

- Sameer, Bangalore

http://linger.in

murali772's picture

enough of government's dis-services, please!

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you cannot expect private industry to take decisions that do not make short term financial sense to them - and the public goods and commons aren't always about that. 
 
Don't all of these apply to airlines, telecom, banking, insurance, power supply, etc, too, where private players have come in and doing a fairly good job (whatever far better in general than the government players), duly facilitated by the government and overseen by the respective regulatory bodies? So, where is the problem of such a thing happening in bus services?
 
And, if someone is not performing, the competition will take care of it (like it has happened in the case of Kingfisher, as compared to Air-India, which keeps blowing up tax payers' money endlessly), or they can be eased out as per the contract terms. If there are still a few artificialities prevailing, the facilitator (the government), or the regulator (where again, the government has a major role to play), is not doing its job properly. On the other hand, almost every government enterprise is surviving largely on artificialities.
 
It's time the government re-defined its role, and it's time the people stopped providing it alibi's to perpetuate its dis-services. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
kamalakar pandit's picture

Lets stop using the word BRTS

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Hi,

Have an idea, lets stop using the word BRTS and let BMTC do the following simple things along with the stake holders like Traffic/BDA etc..

1.Dedicated Bus lanes : where ever possible. I am sure it is certainly possible from KIAL - Hebbal - and then K R Puram (only bottle neck) - then to Electronic city, second route can be KIAL - Hebbal - Tumkur Road - Rajkumar samdhi - Magadi Road - Kengeri - Bidadi.

2. BMTC can work on many more routes - where ever you have 3 lanes...one lane dedicated to BUS.

3. let these buses run on CNG or Battery powered (no more diesel buses) only hybrid buses and low floor.

4.very important, there is already a bus stand every one KM that has to be interconnected via sky walk/sub way so that people should not cross the road just like that. it shoud be mandatory to use these sky walks to cross the roads. The road dividers should be so high that people should be expert in high jump.

If BMTC can think on this, I am sure Bangalore traffic can reduce atleast by 25% .

The moment one say BRTS...the DPR's, feasibility study, land aquition all nonsense things starts.

this system probably called a brother to BRTS can be built/operate/maintained by  BMTC and also no one's ego is hurt, because of the EGO Bangalore is suffering on the infrastructure developments. As of now BMTC is the only mode of public transport. Metro/suburabn train are far behind than BMTC.

These comments are my personal view, I am sorry/appologise if its hurt any one.

 

Regards

 

kamal

 

xs400's picture

INTENT

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I suspect that the intent of our rulers is for Bengaluru not to have a good public transport system in any form. While Delhi Metro has 193 KMs, Bengaluru's Metro is unusable even now. Buses? Its no rocket science to run an efficient system but despite so much controversy and losses BMTC/BTS is unable to provide good and sufficient service. Neither monorail nor metrorail nor BRTS nor a conveyor belt will help. Nor will allowing private companies to run buses help (Kingfisher scewed up by defaulting on loans, taxes, salaries...) if they too subscribe to the same 'intent'. I see that even commuter rail initiatives have fallen flat. Better work on changing the 'intent' and other problems will take care of themselves.

idontspam's picture

Now who has blinkered vision?

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Murali what has dedicated bus lanes got to do with Tata's and TVS? 

murali772's picture

counters to some responses

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@ Vasanth - You have given refrence to various links, but no one no where has agreed. It is only your own thoughts you are sharing regularly and pushing for it.
 
In this very blog, I refrained from commenting on BRT until I got a fair understanding of the whole scheme. And, thanks to Dr ASJ, and the many others (whose opinions I had come to value, not on this subject alone), I formed my opinion, more or less in line with theirs, ie against the BRT. In fact, in the whole of the blog, only you appear to be supporting the BRT, and that too, tentatively. That was in 2008, and susequent developments world over have only gone on to reinforce my view. And, yes, I have thereafter been airing it whenever I got an opportunity. 
 
@ IDS - what has dedicated bus lanes got to do with Tata's and TVS? 
 
The same as what a KIAL got to do with Indigo, or Air-Asia, as compared to what it has got to do with Air-India. Air-India will remain lousy whichever way. 
 
@ Kamal - I am sorry/appologise if its hurt any one
 
As long as you are not using unparliamentary language, don't be too bothered about whether what you say hurts someone or not (including me). Even Arnab Goswami is welcome here :))).
Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Where Sheila Dikshit missed the bus

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I had talked about Delhi power supply in my post of the 24th (above; check here for ready reference). There, the Sheila Dikshit government identified the problem correctly as of the sector being in the hands of the monopoly government player, viz Delhi Vidyut Board (DVB), and the solution became clear. The implementation took time (with a whole lot vested interests trying to scuttle it every stage), but ultimately, with the government persisting with it, the problem is more or less solved today, and all the stake-holders are better of for it. 
 
As compared to that, in the case of public bus transport services, Sheila Dikshit missed the bus totally (or the bus was hijacked by babu's, whose only aim was to perpetuate their vested interests), resulting in the never-ending confused state the city is in.
 
And, in such a state, when the "experts" come in, and offer their solutions (like the BRT), without bothering to see the elephant in the room, is when you begin to wonder what they are upto. I chose to be charitable to them earlier (check here); I am not sure I want to continue talking that language any more. 
Muralidhar Rao
zenx's picture

You're mixing up too many

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You're mixing up too many issues all at once. Do state clearly what the logical arguments against dedicated bus lanes/corridor - the core of the BRT idea - are. Privatization of the bus service or not is a totally different issue. And one won't solve the other. 

- Sameer, Bangalore

http://linger.in

srinidhi's picture

Big Trunk + BPS

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I see the newly introduced Big Trunk service(local shuttles+transfer ticketing policy included) along with Bus Priority Service (BPS) is the only solution to the mess in the transport sector we have today..

This is irrespective of it is done by govt or by private!

murali772's picture

what more does one need?

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@ Zenx - Do state clearly what the logical arguments against dedicated bus lanes/corridor - the core of the BRT idea - are
 
I can't say it any better than what Dr ASJ and others have already said it in this blog, right from the very beginning. If that's not good enough for you, let's just agree to disagree, and be done with it. 
 
Muralidhar Rao
idontspam's picture

Route vs Destination

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Murali, KIA is a destination, not a route. Segregated bus lane is a route not a desitnation. 

murali772's picture

very enlightening!

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very enlightening!

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Just as well

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Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has decided to scrap the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) corridor, much criticised by commuters since its introduction in the capital seven years ago.

- - - - Poor management saw private vehicles cross over to the bus lane, which led to a bigger mess at intersections. Despite considerable public anger, the previous government refused to remove the BRT and tried to experiment with ways of making it work.


For the full text of the report in NDTV.com, click here.

The matter has been debated threadbare on this blog, with my biggest reservations about BRT being highlighted in this one post. I won't dwell more. All I'll now say is just as well.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

co-opted think-tanks

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I must appreciate that Ms Kate Clark has very effectively brought out all the positives of BRT in this report of hers in the Citizen Matters. But, equally, if not more, effective has been the counter to most points by the reader, Vishvajith Madhavamurthy. As such, net of net, I still remain unconvinced about the efficacy of BRT, compared to other systems.

A bigger issue I have with BRT system is that it generally tends to be tailored to fit government monopoly operations (like Bengaluru's BMTC). In fact, I am inclined to think that the massive BRT project in Hubli-Dharwar, which even after a decade is still largely a work-in-progress, was conceived by the neta-babu patronised "government-RTC mafia confederation", essentially to throw out the fairly well run Bendre Nagara Saarige (check here), and re-establish their fiefdom.

And, the think-tanks/ NGO's involved are willy-nilly getting co-opted into these games of theirs, as I had stated here earlier. Once in, they then set up their own consultancy cells to offer expertise in the various aspects involved, eventually becoming another member of the 'confederation', lending 'respectability' to it in the process, even as they seek to paint halo's over their heads as promoters of a government-run service. BMTC's Rs 79 cr ITS contract, which largely remains another w-i-p, even some three months after it was officially launched (check here), makes one think more and more along these lines now. And, having thus established their own vested interests, today they seem to dictate policy, essentially to deepen the entrenchment of the government monopoly operations to further their mutual interests. Unfortunately, the 'janata' doesn't quite seem to appreciate that what may be in the interest of a government-owned operation (actually, in the vested interests of the mafia confederation members who run it) , need not necessarily be in overall public interest, and this ignorance is exploited by the 'confederation'. In fact, the converse is largely true, as elaborated further here.

Another major problem with the present approach of putting all our eggs into the BMTC/ KSRTC basket is what we are facing today in the form of the state-wide indefinite strike, crippling the entire economy (check here).

BRT is at best an engineering solution. It may have its uses, but they are largely over-stated. What is most important today is the need to dismantle the state monopoly (check here), which is the cause of all the distortions in the sector, affecting majorly the quality of life of the people. Once that's decided, there can be any number of ways to improve mobility overall, and that's where the think-tanks could make their contributions.

PS: Incidentally, a friend had forwarded to me the general mail sent by WRI to Praja inviting participation in the "Unlock Bengaluru" event, held on July 9th. Though I mailed in my nomination, quite well in time too, I didn't receive any response. While hinting at the possibility of think-tanks getting co-opted, in my report following the ConnectKaro event held by WRI in March 2014 (accessible here), I had mentioned "Perhaps, that's the end of any invitation for me for such workshops :)))". Well, it's turned out true.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

corroboration from Sreedharan

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Delays have cost the city dear. There is immense vehicular congestion. A wider reach of the Metro could have aided in reducing it. “The Metro was conceptualized over a decade ago ­ when Bengaluru's population was barely 60 lakh. The city now houses over 1.1 crore inhabitants. There should have been a larger network by now. The only way to tackle the traffic is to aggressively expand the Metro network,“ Sreedharan stressed.

- - - Rejecting the idea of a Bus Rapid Transit System Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), Sreedharan said it would not be able to handle the traffic on Bengaluru's narrow roads.

Sreedharan, who built the Delhi Metro and the Konkan Railway , is credited with changing the face of public transport in India.

For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

Corroboration of my view by the expert of experts.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

urgent need for UMTA to prevent lobby hijacks

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With plans for the Bus Rapid Transport System (BRTS) and Namma Metro on the Outer Ring Road hanging fire, citizens’ groups on Monday came together to see how at least one of these public transport projects is implemented on the ORR at the earliest.

The ebent was hosted by Bangalore Political Action Committee (BPAC) and WRI India.

Paulo Sergio Custodio, public transport expert, who was part of the discussion, preferred BRTS on the 30-km ORR between Central Silk Board and Hebbal via KR Puram to the proposed Namma Metro. He said: “Taking into consideration the capital cost and execution time, BRTS is a preferred solution. The government can recover the money invested in this project in less than 10 years,” he said.

When panellists sought to know why a Metro was not preferred on ORR, he said: “The bus rapid transport project is able to take the existing passenger load of 12,000 per hour on each direction on the ORR to 30,000 per hour. BRTS can be implemented in two years while the Metro would need a minimum of five years. Besides, the project just requires 20% of the cost of the Metro project,” he said.


R K Misra, founder director, Centre for Smart Cities said if BMRCL cannot guarantee the execution of Namma Metro on the ORR in the next three years, BRTS is an easier solution. More than 10 lakh people work on the stretch, adding 60,000 crore tax in the government exchequer.

Ekroop Caur, MD of BMTC said BRTS is a suitable option as the left lane of the road is occupied by illegal parking.


For the full text of the report in the Deccan Herald, click here.

I had attended the discussion, though, because of the 'bandh' disruptions, I couldn't get an "Ola" on time, and by the time reached the venue, most of the expert's presentation was over. On the return, I had to walk over a km, before managing to get a "share auto" home.

All the same, being well-versed with the arguments for the BRT, I did manage to get a few points across during the interaction session.

1) Execution time: Here, I pointed out that, since the Metro is planned to come up on pillars in the centre of the ORR, land acquisition problems do not arise, and consequently, the project can be executed fast. I cited the case of Kochi Metro work, which, after the initial land acquisition problems were sorted out, has been moving at tremendous speed in spite of the constraints of marshy soil conditions at a number of locations, as also the intense monsoons. I would also attribute the reasons for the commendable speed, apart from the quality of work, discernible even to a lay-man's eye, to the professionalism of the contractor, L & T. As such, it's important to choose the right contractor, rather than go by L1 criterion, which, if adopted blindly, eventually turns out far costlier in many ways.

2) Cost factor: In the urban scenario, land acquisition cost has become a major component of infrastructure project cost. Metro along the ORR can be built on pillars along the median, avoiding this component almost totally. As different from that, in the case of BRT, land acquisition is necessary at a few pockets, the cost of which, though Mr P S Custodio stated can be addressed through "value capture", is still another added cost element.

3) Entry of vehicles other than special BRT buses: Mr R K Misra made a valid point about the problems related to movement of ordinary BMTC buses (as also buses of private operators, or even an ambulance, if required to be operated) along these stretches, since they have their doors on the wrong side, compared to BRT requirements. This means BRT corridors are largely exclusive for the special buses, made for the purpose, which, in my opinion, will entail a large under-utilisation of expensive urban land, except if confined to extremely high density roads (like the entry and exit points of a bus station).

4) UMTA (Urban Metropolitan Transport Authority): When a participant raised a point about the wrong location of bus shelters, BMTC MD, Ms Ekroop Caur, stated that that was BBMP's domain, and the participant needed to represent the matter to BBMP. I interjected to add that that was exactly why we needed an UMTA, like in Singapore or London, in place, immediately (check here for a bit on that). Ravichander and R K Misra elaborated on the concept, and readily agreed that that indeed was the need of the hour. Questions arose then from the audience as to why that was not happening. Though nobody gave a specific answer, the answer clearly is that the transport ministry is seen as a "lucrative" one (alongwith power, and a few more), and the neta's presiding over it, will not easily allow for any dilution of their powers, even as the city goes to seed because of their ways. And, that precisely is why we need to have the UMTA, and also that has to be the very first thing to happen too. And, if it has to happen, the people need to demand it - very loudly too!

In the course of the discussions, Mr Custodio very clearly stated that BRT will have to have high quality buses, and bus stations/ terminals (quite like the airports). Without mincing words, he stated that the existing fleet of BMTC buses, as also the stations, were poor quality and poorly maintained. When asked pointedly as to which mode he would recommend for the operations, he was very clearly for PPP (compared to government operations). And, that's where I have an issue with the Bengaluru proposal, in that it is going to be operated by BMTC. BMTC doesn't have the capacity (because of government/ neta interference - check here for more on that) to manage what has been entrusted to it, and if in addition, it is given this task too, the city is going to land in a bigger mess. If executed through a PPP arrangement, BRT may be worth considering.

All of the problems the city is facing today were foreseen decades ago, and viable solutions offered then too - check here. But, the neta's were only interested in perpetuating their fiefdoms, and we have landed up where we are today. The need is for a collective demand for change - in the area of "mobility" (that's what it ultimately is), the first demand needs to be for a properly constituted and empowered UMTA.

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

Metro lobby gains upper hand on ORR

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The Karnataka government has decided to decongest Bengaluru's IT corridor by fasttracking the 18-km long Metro Rail line that connects Central Silk Board Junction with KR Puram. The Rs 3,600-crore line has been included in the second phase of the Metro project (it will be categorized as Phase 2A). The new line, called the Outer Ring Road Metro (ORR Metro), will have 13 stations and will link HSR Layout, Bellandur, Kadubeesanahalli, Marathahalli, Doddanekundi and Mahadevapura.

- - - On funds for the project, he said BMRC is working on several innovative financing techniques. A senior IAS officer explained: "Since mobilization of funds for this line is quite huge, we have chosen to source it from multiple sources. We're looking at rolling out a premium floor area ratio (FAR) for those planning to construct properties along the stretch, levying of betterment charges, raising finances through hoardings, by providing premium accessways and ramps, commercialization of space and levying additional cess while approving new projects."


For the full text of the report in the ToI, click here.

A skeptic commented, on a whatsapp group, as below:

The 3600 crores on ORR metro could have got us 3600 kms of walkable Footpaths with upgraded drain network. - - - I foresee many ORR cos not renewing their leases despite this announcement. That place will creak next 6-8 years. Metro is not reaching Silk Board or KR Puram till 2023. Can't see them reorienting resources from phase 1, 2 and even 3 for this line on ORR. Phase 2 has very serious land acquisition challenges. It's an announcement so that it does not become a election issue of nothing being planned there. There is no intent in fixing the problem quickly. And Commuter rail will go on slow burner.

There's indeed merit to what the skeptic has stated. Yes, the metro along the ORR is going to cause a lot of disruption during the construction phase. But, I am not sure BRT, even if executed in the PPP mode, could be the answer.

And yes, Commuter rail (Namma Railu - check here), which even Mr Custodio (check the above post) emphasised needs to be the obvious first choice, doesn't even appear to be on the GoK's radar.

All in all, we are paying a huge price for improper overall visioning, but instead allowing all kinds of lobbies and mafia's hijacking us.

Muralidhar Rao
Vasanth's picture

Nice Points Murali

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Murali, thanks for sharing the points discussed. I am also of the opinion that operational effeciency of BMTC is not enough for BRTS standards.

PPP model BRTS has to be implemented to get international standards such as the one done in Turkey Istanbul with Mercedes bus etc. ORR road quality is also choppy. It should have been done before the sprawl.

Being a BRTS fan I feel sad that it did not go through on ORR, but offlate seeing the frequent failing Volvos and Marcopolos, I do not have confidence in BMTC. The same Volvos which were of similar age in Mysore is running fantastically and daily climbing Chamundi hills at ease. Marcopolos are running fantastically in Delhi. I took an HOHO in Delhi, which was using Marcopolos that were similar to the ones used in Bangalore. They were not emitting like Bangalore nor they had A/C or performance problems. 

But BRTS itself is a beautiful concept and should be done atleast to Airport and tier 2 cities like Mysore whose Ring Road is not sprawled yet.

murali772's picture

main reservation overcome, but - -

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As one of the examples, Bogotá has the world’s busiest BRT system, Transmilenio, with 12 lines serving 144 stations and more than 100 kilometers of exclusive transitways. It accounts for 4 million trips each day and a mode share of about 64 percent of all trips in the city. Partnership between public and private agencies has been key to its success. While the city planned and built the system and continues to regulate and manage it, private companies actually run the buses.

For the full text of the report in NextCity, click here.

Well, yes, if it's not going to be operated by a government monopoly, like the BMTC, BRT may perhaps be workable, more specifically on roads like the Mysore ring road (as pointed out by Vasanth - read his post of 16th Sept, scrolling above), if planned right away. But, while operation by BMTC makes for my biggest reservation, there's still the reservation on account of the road width required, as brought out here. That's not going to go away easily :))).

Muralidhar Rao
murali772's picture

No tears need be shed for BRT

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After nine years of dabbling over whether or not to undertake the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), the Karnataka government has finally decided to shelve the estimated Rs 500 crore project on realising that it cannot successfully execute it in Bengaluru.

- - - Confirming the shelving of the project to Bangalore Mirror, Mahendra Jain, additional chief secretary (urban development department), said now the state government does not feel it is feasible on the ORR “as we have already planned for the Namma Metro”.

He said: “The decision was taken because there was no sufficient road width available for the BRTS. The balance carriage way would be very less so we decided not to take it forward. As we have planned for Metro, two public transportation systems cannot be executed on one stretch.”

He said: “BRTS is best where you are making new roads. For the BRTS, we require four lanes and a place for a platform and also one lane for overtaking. So that makes it five lanes exclusively for this. And that doesn’t really work. If you are planning a new layout or township, then it can work there; but in Bengaluru it is difficult to implement. For the BRTS, a central lane is required for setting up the platform (the bus stand); and at a few places, the overtaking lane is required, which is not feasible.”


For the full text of the report (emphasis added by me) in the Bangalore Mirror, click here.

Finally, we see one decision taken based on proper reasoning. As such, no tears need be shed for BRTS now.

One would like to believe that the arguments put forth on Praja (on this blog, as well as many others linked here) helped in the decision making. Actually, can there be a better platform than Praja for citizen participation?

Muralidhar Rao

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